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"Here, I have a more suitable gun for you. You'll need it—Catch!"
Father Grigori[src]

The SPAS-12, is a powerful pump-action shotgun that fires buckshot in a cone-shaped pattern. Primarily used by the HECU and the Combine, and sometimes carried by the Resistance as well and occasionally found next to Black Mesa Personnels, it is used by most playable characters from the Half-Life games' story arc.


Freeman and his SPAS-12.

The SPAS-12 has two fire modes. The first one fires multiple pellets with a medium-sized spread, uses one shell, and has a small delay between shots. The alternate fire mode fires double the amount of pellets in a larger, less tight spread and uses two shells, but has a longer delay between shots.

The SPAS-12 is reloaded one shell at a time. The reloading process can be interrupted at any time by pressing the fire key. This weapon is commonly used by the HECU and the Combine Soldiers, who often have one or two soldiers armed with shotguns mixed with ones wielding MP5s/MP7s along with the Pulse Rifle.

In Half-Life, the SPAS-12 is first acquired in the game's fourth chapter, Office Complex, at the end of a hallway. If not found there, it can be found scattered throughout the rest of the chapter. After Freeman is captured, and his weapons confiscated, the SPAS-12 can be obtained by killing a SPAS-12 wielding HECU soldier at the start of the chapter Questionable Ethics.

In Opposing Force, it is first acquired in the chapter Welcome to Black Mesa, found next to a dead HECU marine and a Vortigaunt.

In Blue Shift, it is first acquired in the chapter Duty Calls, next to a dead Scientist.

In Half-Life 2, the SPAS-12 is first given to Freeman by Father Grigori in the sixth Half-Life 2 chapter "We Don't Go To Ravenholm...". This weapon is used by both Rebels and Overwatch Soldiers, who have a different uniform than regular soldiers. After the chapter Entanglement, Kleiner greets Alyx and Gordon with a SPAS-12, mirroring a scene from Half-Life.

In Episode One, the SPAS-12 is found in the chapter Lowlife, along with the USP Match. In the Hospital, Alyx picks up a SPAS-12 that she effectively uses against opponents. Just like with her gun, it appears to have unlimited ammo.

In Episode Two, it is found in the chapter To The White Forest, while trekking through the Victory Mine.


  • The SPAS-12 is very effective at close range against most targets, but its effectiveness decreases significantly with range because its pellets spread more the farther they go. The primary fire is effective against weak enemies, such as Headcrabs, Zombies, Houndeyes, Combine Soldiers and Vortigaunts. Bullsquids are tougher because of the low damage output and the small delay between shots, but still doable if the player makes sure to dodge its acid sprays.
    • Due to the spread, it is actually more effective to aim for the center-of-mass at medium ranges, as the pellets are more likely to hit the target. At close range, a point-blank headshot will, more often than not, result in a one-shot kill.
  • The SPAS-12's alternate fire is one of the most powerful attacks the player can use. In Normal mode difficulty, it can kill any enemy up to a HECU soldier or Elite Combine soldier in one hit, as long as around six pellets connect. The alternate fire also does heavy damage against the Alien Grunt, but the long delay between shots makes the player very vulnerable to counter-attacks, especially while being close to the enemy. Due to this, it advised to switch to another weapon to finish off weakened targets, or take cover while pumping.
    • However, in Half-Life: Source, one useful trick is to use quick switch directly after each shot, thus skipping the pump mechanism, which increases the rate of fire. However, this trick also eats up the ammo very quickly, which forces the player to reload when faced against large groups of enemies.
  • Even though the SPAS-12 is carried by some HECU troops, it is a poor choice for actually fighting the troops, due to their speed of movement, rapid rate of fire, and tendency to use cover. Other weapons such as the MP5 and .357 Magnum work significantly better, and the SPAS-12 should be reserved for the weaker Xen creatures or Zombies.
  • Another enemy that the SPAS-12 does poorly against is the Alien Controller. At the various ranges the Alien Controller can be at, most of the SPAS-12's pellets will miss the creature due to its spread, no matter what firing mode is used.
    • This is somewhat opposite in Half-Life 2, due to Combine soldier's slower movement speed, tighter spread of shotgun, reload notably faster than the Half-Life counterpart and capability of one shot kill as long all pellets connects makes the SPAS-12 a decent weapon at close range.

An Overwatch Soldier running towards Freeman with his shotgun at Bridge Point.

  • Reloading must be made as often as possible, as an empty SPAS-12 magazine takes much longer to reload than other weapons, especially in Half-Life. A common tactic when using the SPAS-12 is to reload every two or three shots if possible to avoid the long reload time. However, this is generally not recommended if multiple enemies are at close range.
  • In Deathmatch gameplay of Half-Life, one shot only fires two-thirds pellets, but each bullet causes four times as much damage.
  • In Half-Life 2, the SPAS-12 has much less ammo in reserve and a lower magazine capacity. However, it deals higher damage, tighter spread, and the secondary attack has a higher firing rate than in Half-Life. Thus, it more effective against most lone enemies. Also, a box of shotgun shells restores 20 shells instead of 12 and is far more common to find, making it more worthwhile to use. SPAS-12s found on the ground or dropped by Overwatch Soldiers supply a full magazine of 6 rounds, and boxes of ammo contain a staggering 20 shells. Two boxes of ammo can fully resupply even an empty SPAS-12 with some shells to spare. It is even possible to carry the box with a Gravity Gun to refill ammo whenever needed, as long as the reserve ammo count is 30. Generally, should the player run low on shotgun ammo, it's very likely that a Supply Crate will give the player ammo for shotguns. Therefore, running out of ammo for shotgun is very unlikely unless on early chapters.

Alyx wielding a SPAS-12 in the Hospital.

  • The SPAS-12 is a very good weapon when dealing with Zombies of nearly any type, and their Headcrab counterparts can be dispatched very quickly, easily, and safely with the SPAS-12. Even if only a few pellets hit a Headcrab, their combined damage should be more than enough to kill it. However, when fighting a Poison Zombie, the player should be aware of the environment, strafing constantly as well as making sure that the shotgun is fully loaded, given that the high health of this zombie, combined with three Poison Headcrabs, makes it dangerous even for SPAS-12 users. And when fighting a Fast Zombie, be aware the shotgun may not kill it in one shot while zombie is leaping so be ready to sidestep to dodge their leap attack.
    • When dealing with Zombies, the player should aim for the head to avoid fighting the Headcrab; a double shot is the guaranteed kill. As long as the "killing shot" is aimed at the head, the Headcrab should die.
  • It may be desirable to enter a firefight with the SPAS-12 and, once the supply of shells has been exhausted, switch to a backup weapon instead of reloading.
  • The SPAS-12 is the most effective weapon against Antlions, even at some distance, due to their size being larger than most other enemies. It's also very effective against Antlion Guards when other heavy weapons are unavailable.

Behind the scenes

Shotgun-wielding Gordon Freeman given on Valve's Facebook page for GameSpot's All Time Greatest Video Game Hero.

  • Early Half-Life footage showed that the SPAS-12 had a completely different skin that was white. All traces of the old skin were removed except for the shotgun used by the scientist at Sector F Lambda Complex's Level A, which still uses that old skin.
  • The SPAS-12 in the leaked Half-Life 2 Beta has a completely different model and completely different firing sounds. The sounds can still be found in retail sound files. The model appears in the E3 2004 trailer and in the retail game files as a "DirectX 7" model, although its textures are missing.
  • The retail Half-Life SPAS-12 has a cut idle animation, in which Gordon fidgets a shotgun shell around in his fingers.



  • In both games, artwork for the shotgun often depicts Gordon Freeman with it, making it the only weapon besides the crowbar he is depicted with in concept art.
  • When the gun is chambered after an empty reload, it will still eject an empty casing with a spent primer.
  • In real life, the SPAS-12 cannot fire two shots simultaneously, as it only has one barrel.
    • Moreover, even when both barrels are fired, when Gordon cycles the new rounds, only one shell is ejected.
  • Although the SPAS-12 in real life can switch between pump-action and semi-automatic modes, only the player uses the pump-action, while the NPCs uses both semi-automatic and pump-action.
    • In Half-Life, HECUs use the SPAS-12 only in semi-automatically and never use pump-action. In Half-Life: Source, HECU fires the SPAS-12 even more faster than GoldSrc counterparts.
    • In Half-Life 2, NPCs can use the SPAS-12 both semi-automatically and pump-action. They fire the shotgun semi-automatically when moving, as rate of fire seems to be significantly higher than the player's shotgun. When used by a Combine soldier, they only fires five shells before they reload unless absolutely needed to fire sixth shell. NPCs use the pump-action when they are standing still and fire slower than the player's when used this way except when used by female characters who can fire the SPAS-12 slightly faster than the player's.
  • When the SPAS-12 is used by NPCs, they will reload all the shells at once. While player must reload one shells individually.
  • The shells loaded into the gun are just empty cartridges with spent primers. This error also carries over to the .357 Magnum.
  • In all Half-Life games, the playable character erroneously inserts the shells through the heat shield rather than the actual loading port located behind it
  • The SPAS-12 used by NPCs never fires the shotgun with the alternative firing mode.


  • Although the standard shotgun weapon model is a SPAS-12, the weapon icon in the HUD depicts a different model of shotgun (an Ithaca 37). The Half-Life High Definition Pack remedies this by replacing the icon and making it look like a real SPAS-12.
  • The Team Fortress Classic Super Shotgun uses the SPAS-12's model.
  • In reality, a more appropriate shotgun for a USMC unit would be the Remington 870, since the SPAS-12 is not used in military service in the United States.
  • The ammo box for the SPAS-12 contains 13 shells; however, the player will only get 12 of them. The reasoning behind this may be because the shell outside of the box appears to have been spent in both the original and HD Pack (though this is much more evident in the HD Pack.)
  • There was previously a bug in Half-Life and its expansion packs (but not in Half-Life: Day One), where the pumping sound would not be played if the player held down the firing button for successive shots; they needed to release the button between shots in order to hear it. This was fixed in 2019 for most games, but the bug is still present in Half-Life: Source.

Half-Life 2

  • Originally female characters using the shotgun shares the firing animation with male characters. This was changed since the release of Episode One; female NPCs are given a new animations to enhance their combat ability, specifically when the shotgun is used by Alyx. The new animation allows the female characters fire the shotgun at far more faster rate than original version of Half-Life 2. The reason for this is the original firing animation was considered too slow for Alyx's combat abilities with her shotgun in Hospital against zombies. In addition the old animation does not allow Alyx fire the shotgun while moving or when attacked; furthering hampering her combat abilities, especially when a Zombine with a live grenade is within her vicinity and she need to retreat from it. The said animation update was also retconned in later updates on Half-Life 2.
    • In addition both male and female characters are given a new and more appropriate reload animation for the shotgun. Originally they shares the reload animation for the MP7 and the Pulse Rifle, which shows removing a non-existing magazine and than insert it, followed by pulling the charging handle. The new animation shows the character inserting shells and than pump the shotgun while holding in air. Like the firing animation, this animation has been applied on 2010 versions Half-Life 2.
  • Due to its short effective range, NPCs using the SPAS-12 can be rather aggressive as they will often charge towards their targets, regardless of how dangerous the situation is. Furthermore, when charging, they will always have an advantage against NPCs armed with better ranged but weaker weapons, especially if they fire the shotgun in semi-automatic mode. Therefore, Combine Soldiers are usually overpowered at close range and may even be able to kill high health targets, like Alyx, in just a few shots if the player does not protect her. Vice versa, Rebel NPCs armed with this weapon can often often go rogue and disobey to follow the player occasionally as well, often perishing themselves.
    • If the Rebels are unable to get close to their enemies, they will usually take a few seconds before shooting. Combine Soldiers however, will either hide behind a wall and ignore the target or simply crouch without shooting.
  • The Nova Prospekt Prison Guards seem to use the SPAS-12 more frequently than normal Overwatch Soldiers, perhaps due to the shorter combat ranges and therefore enhanced shotgun effectiveness.
  • It is possible to alter the number of pellets in the shell used by SPAS-12, via the console command "sk_plr_num_shotgun_pellets #"
    • By default, each shell contains 7 pellets.
  • In Episode One, when Alyx takes a SPAS-12, she will take the furthest shotgun (from right to left) in the rack, and this SPAS-12 will always be unobtainable for the player, given that it is, essentially, just a prop to be used by NPCs.
  • When Gordon doesn't fully empty the shotgun, he doesn't pump the shotgun because a round is already chambered.





Half-Life 2



List of appearances


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